LOUISVILLE, Ky.–AHS International is looking to build on its success over the last two fiscal years achieving $24 million in congressional “plus-ups” for the Army’s Joint Multi-Role (JMR) tech demonstrator program.
AHS International Executive Director Mike Hirschberg said Monday the non-profit advocacy organization helped the Army get $14 million more than the service originally budgeted for JMR in FY ’15 and an additional $10 million in FY ’16. AHS International in FY ’16 was also able to get an additional $3.4 million for “helicopter seat improvements” to reduce injuries in the event of impact, according to a statement on the organizations’s website.
Hirschberg said AHS International hired the lobbying shop American Continental Group to help it earn its JMR plus-ups. Other American Continental Group clients include Reed Elsevier plc and Hewlett-Packard [HPQ].
“We’re continuing to walk the halls of Congress and try to get more funds,” Hirschberg told reporters here at the 2016 Heli-Expo conference.
Hirschberg said he had a specific target in mind for FY ’17, but he was unable to share it at the moment. Hirschberg said AHS International had been receiving about half of what it was asking for in additional JMR funding.
Hirschberg said while AHS International has been very active on Capitol Hill over the last few decades lobbying lawmakers for investment in future rotorcraft, he said it was in FY ’09 when the hard work started to pay off. That was the year, he said, that Congress directed the Pentagon to start the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program, which will take lessons from JMR to create requirements for the Army’s next generation of rotorcraft.
Working with different congressional offices, Hirschberg said AHS International was able to keep the heat on the Pentagon to lay the groundwork for FVL. Hirschberg said he had CEOs for the major United States rotorcraft companies sign a letter to the defense secretary, explaining how the Pentagon was directed to move forward with the program and that industry was ready to participate. The Defense Department finally came out with the FVL plan in FY ’12, he said.
Hirschberg was also thrilled that the Army, this year for the first time, requested funding to apply to an actual FVL program of record, as previous requests had been under the JMR umbrella. The $10 million request for FY ’17, Hirschberg said in a February interview with Defense Daily sister publication Rotor & Wing International, would start the FVL requirements process.
AHS International claimed partial credit for helping NASA get an additional $100 million for rotorcraft research in FY ’15 as part of its Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technology (RVLT) project funded out of the overall aeronautics budget. AHS International said the RVLT program’s budget had been slashed to $15 million, half of what AHS International said was its historical level of $30 million or more.
RVLT is slotted under aeronautics and advanced air vehicles in NASA’s FY ’17 budget request. While NASA did not have a dedicated funding line for RVLT in its FY ’17 budget request, it asked for nearly $300 million for advanced air vehicles. Hirschberg said in late February AHS International would have further details on its NASA lobbying strategy. He said Tuesday he’d target NASA plus-ups in both fixed- and rotary-wing vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) technology for FY ’17.
The Army on Feb. 23 posted a pair of requests for information (RFI) on Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) for two FVL capability sets. According to AHS International, Capability Set 1 is closer to what was originally “FVL Light” and is similar to the Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) profile. Capability Set 3, AHS International said, corresponds to what was originally called “FVL Medium,” upon which the JMR demonstrators were based.